There's No Recession in Engineering Innovations

DN Staff

July 1, 2009

2 Min Read
There's No Recession in Engineering Innovations

I’ve been attending National Plastics Expositions since the 1980s, and it’s amazing how the scope of the show has grown. Before 1986, the only hall (the East Hall) faced Lake Michigan and an old municipal airport, and had 522,000 square feet in exhibition space. In 1986, the North Hall opened; in 1996, the South Hall; and in 2007, the West Hall. Total exhibition space today is 2.6 million sq. ft., and you virtually need a GPS to get from Point A to Point B-sometimes even within the same hall.The current economy created a challenge to fill that space, and there certainly were quite a few empty spots, particularly toward the back of the newest hall. The show attracted 1,851 exhibiting companies on 977,660 sq.ft. of paid space. The number of companies represented was down 17%, and some powerhouse names were absent as exhibitors.

Attendance was down 30 percent despite an avalanche of conference sessions that greatly enriched the content of the event. Conferences included Antec, the outstanding annual technical conference of the Society of the Plastics Industry. (Full disclosure: I have been a member of the SPE for many years.) A lot of the attendance drop was clearly from exhibitors; the show was packed with engineering talent from a Who’s Who of companies.

A few takeaways:

  • Bioplastics will be the fastest growing segment of the North American plastics industry over the next five years. Production capacity of thermoplastic biopolymers was 50 kilotons on 2000. That will rise to 2,500 worldwide in 2010, with the lion’s share coming in the USA. DuPont rolled out a full commercial slate of biobased engineering compounds at the NPE.

  • The Asians are staking out an ever larger share of the North American market. In a sign of the times, there was a surge in exhibitors from China (up 70 percent from 2006).

  • There is no recession in innovative, high-technology products and systems emerging for the design engineering community, ranging from in-mold labeling to engineered foaming systems for structural applications.

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